OMAC’s PackML – A butter knife or a real tool?
I have been following the discussions that have been evolving around OMAC’s PackML. This effort started out to provide some real benefit to the end user community, and it succeeded. The first solution provided by PackML Version 2.0 only dealt with a small part of the problem set that the end users had to solve but it was a great solution for that small part. Of course the customers clamored for MORE and the OMAC Packaging group set of to deliver Version 3.0 with improvements and features that again improved the lives of many end users. And of course those end users continuing to demand more improvements.
This lead to the joint initiative between OMAC-WBF–ISA that became know as Make2Pack. This really great undertaking resulted in the delivery of an ISA document that clearly identifies how the PackML concepts fit into the manufacturing environment of the ISA88 series of standards AND several enhancements that the end users had been demanding. The Make2Pack group was aware that much of the “hard” work was, and is, yet to be done to deliver on the full promise of interoperability that is still being demanded by the end users.
I can equate the original PackML offering as a knife to cut and spread butter on bread (as long as the butter is soft) and this was sure a lot better than the approaches used before the butter knife was available. The PackML Version TR02 described in the ISA technical report is more akin to a multi-bladed pocket knife with some blades being quite sharp and use of sharp edged tools come with risks and training requirements. As some use this tool they seem to be frustrated in that it does require more effort than the original butter knife and complain about the cuts and band aids they are finding necessary in the use of the more capable tool. If all you want to do is spread warm butter don’t use the sharpest blade in your multi bladed knife, there is a blade specifically designed for that!
I recently read that the end users are frustrated that PackML does not provide the ability to interact with a machine at a low enough level and thus has limited value. This was identified as the “hard work yet to be done” by the Make2Pack group and is continuing under the ISA88 Part 5 working group. What is being demanded by the end users is more like a pocket tool that has pliers, knife blades, screw drivers and what ever else one can imagine, which will be a really great tool when available and is what the continuing work is set to deliver! Of course there is training and risks associated with this much more capable tool that some will observe as being too complicated and painful to bother about, not only can you cut and stab yourself by now you can pinch as well. But those who choose to master how to use these new tools will be so much more capable and effective than those who try to use a butter knife to unscrew a cover plate.
ISA88 Part 5 draft standard is the next logical progression, extending the usefulness of the PackML Version TR02 technical report, aiming to get more efficiency throughout continuous, batch, and machine control applications.
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Prior postings from the blog: Standard Profits: Make2Pack and ISA88
David A. Chappell, Complete Manufacturing Automation associates – LLC